Photo: Paraiba do Sul River
Authorities in Sao Paulo state, Brazil’s wealthiest and most heavily populated, have restored the water flow of the Paraiba do Sul River to normal levels, bringing an end to a dispute with the neighboring states of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais.
Sao Paulo, where a severe drought has triggered a serious water shortage, ceded to the demands of the ONS electric grid operator and stopped holding back the liquid at a dam.
The move ended a crisis that began last Friday when Sao Paulo state-run utility Cesp restricted the water flow at the Jaguari hydroelectric dam on the Paraiba do Sul from 30 cubic meters per second to 10 cms, a measure taken - according to Mauro Arce, Sao Paulo state’s sanitation and water resources secretary - to prioritize human consumption over supplies to hydro power stations.
That reduction measure endangered supplies of water and electricity to 10 million people in Rio de Janeiro state and 5 million people in Minas Gerais state, according to the National Water Agency, and prompted a harsh exchange of accusations among the state governors.
Sao Paulo’s Sanitation and Water Resources Secretariat, which oversees the Cesp, said the volume of water released by the Jaguari dam had returned to levels that existed prior to the dispute but did not provide further explanations.
On Wednesday, Brazilian power regulator Aneel threatened Cesp with possible sanctions if it did not stop reducing the water flow at the Jaguari hydroelectric dam.
Arce, meanwhile, said Tuesday he was prepared to take legal action in the matter, saying the law should ensure that supplies to aqueducts - for human consumption - take priority over the water supplied to hydroelectric plants.
Scarce rainfall has affected several regions of Brazil, more than two-thirds of whose electricity comes from hydroelectric plants, and the crisis could worsen in the coming months.